by Jessica Gauzi, a blogger invited to the 2012 Women’s Forum by Orange
The 3rd day has arrived so quickly and will be the last, under a brighter Normandy sky. Before starting the sessions, I went back to the previous day’s news summary, a short and hard-hitting format, which the Women’s Forum successfully introduced this year.
At the “Women in Engineering”/CO-INNOVATE” corner, I attended a Discovery session on: “should we reward innovation?” In the presence of Maria Harti, the CEO of idTGV at the SNCF, Michael Gibbs, the Economics Professor, presented the results of a study that he had conducted on the issue of whether financial incentives motivate, or create a bias in innovation and creativity.
Actually, it turns out that a financial reward does not generate any more proposals. However, the resulting ideas are better, as more work has been put into them, no doubt to increase the chance of “winning”, while ideas from low-ranking employees gain greater acceptance. This is therefore a very positive factor! In contrast, there is no difference between the number of proposals made by women or men; although those made by men are apparently accepted more easily…as are those put forward by a team.
Following the data, Maria presented the SNCF’s innovation process, which has enabled the launch of the new idBUS service. Obviously, it’s not a radical idea, but it is intended to provide more comfort to passengers who travel by bus, thanks to a premium positioning.
The points to bear in mind are:
- innovation results from the “brain-storming” phase, combined with the creation phase (in short, the R&D division and engineers must collaborate with operational staff, as well as with marketing staff, as soon as possible);
- you should not reward the idea, but the innovation, if it has been implemented, as this involves the entire team that took part, and not just one individual;
- the reward may be non-financial; it may involve a prize, an evening event, a lifetime experience, or even a trip to discover a country where the company is expanding;
- furthermore, we must not hesitate to use innovation as a management and team-building tool, as we can motivate our team to achieve a result together, regardless of whether it is positive or negative.
Since the Women’s Forum addresses economic and social issues, through the opinion of experts, it also leaves space for artists, and for people who have witnessed the actual reality in the field. This is how I was able to listen to the stories told by Nick Danziger, the photographer, who travels all over the world in order to bring back harrowing images of this reality, which is still too far away from us. Some of his snaps over his 25-year career in photography have been used to illustrate the “United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals project, which aims to eradicate poverty by 2015.
Nick sometimes travelled to Afghanistan in secret, like during the two months he spent there, when he didn’t see a single woman…except for an old woman who was being taken to task by men. In Afghanistan, women are imprisoned in psychiatric asylums, or they may be locked up in cages. If they become violent, they are chained to a wall.
We know very well that women and children are the most vulnerable during wartime. Nowadays, girls don’t go to school, and women don’t work. They cannot go to the doctor, as their husbands, fathers, and brothers forbid it! Elsewhere, Nick saw hundreds of women queuing in front of a bakery for bread rations from 5.00 in the morning in a temperature of -20°C.
The stories that he shares are dreadful: like the story of the mother who died giving birth to twins. Their aunt went to collect them; however, she was only able to bring one of the babies back, because she didn’t have enough money to buy a bus ticket for the second one…
Or the story of Bridget, aged 15, who didn’t have the dollar she needed to buy her school exercise book, so she had to have sex with a man to earn that amount. When he returned a few years later, the photographer found Bridget: she is HIV-positive.
What about this photograph of a classroom in Uganda where 143 children are “studying”, and where there isn’t even any chalk left at the end of the year to give the lessons? Meanwhile, if a child comes to school without a uniform, which they have to buy (but with what?), they are punished and have to clean the toilets.
What about Salvy, who had AIDS? Her daughter wanted to take her to hospital, but there was no money for a taxi. So she died on the ground in front of her daughter 24 hours later.
He met Chana, whose grandmother had died and had left her entire fortune, US$25. She had said that she wanted the money to be spent wisely. Her parents bought a scales. Chana (in the above photo), is sitting on her grandmother’s entire fortune, which was stupidly wasted by her parents.
The recent pictures from Afghanistan are harrowing. 2,500 women apparently set themselves alight in one year. One of them, who blamed herself for a miscarriage, survived, but can you imagine the state she was in?
Nick continued with pictures of open, empty shops that have had nothing to sell for months. We see famine, extreme famine, with our own eyes. In Somalia, a woman walked for three hours because she had heard that there was a spring. She walked in 42 °C, while carrying her baby, with her toddler in front of her. They walked for three hours, in order to return with just a few litres of water.
However, there are positive signs, because women are brave. In Afghanistan, 12 women drive a car, despite the fact that they are supposedly not allowed to. There is also the woman who was elected to Parliament, and who needs to be protected by a bodyguard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In a classroom where 24 girls spoke up, and where only three had a literate mother, the girls said that they wanted to become doctors, engineers, and even the President of their country.
So yes, it’s hard to be optimistic after pictures like this. We realise just how dreadful the conditions are for many women in these under-developed countries, and we cannot remain unmoved by those conditions. In fact, this is what Nick wants: to raise awareness, at the highest level, by showing his work, in order to encourage world leaders to act quickly.
Discover more pictures and learn more about Nick Danziger and his work on his website http://www.nickdanziger.com/index/photography/humanitarian.
In fact, some leaders are actually taking action, and I would like to tell you about the speech given by Jacques Attali, the Chairman of PlaNet Finance. Mr Attali, who had come to discuss the idea that connected technologies could accelerate growth, presented the Micro World micro-lending platform; Micro World is an NGO that belongs to the same group as PlaNet Finance.
“Technology is here, now more than ever, and its potential is huge” at every level. And what is wonderful, is that it can be used by the very poor, for the very poor. Today, we observe that there are 1.5 billion mobile phones in the world. These phones provide access to banking and financial services, like in Kenya or the Philippines, where many people’s lives have been revolutionised by being able to receive or send money transfers.
Naturally, there is a negative side, just as for any tool that is entrusted to Man, adds Jacques Attali. Although a hammer can be used to kill, he tells us, it is mainly used to build houses. It is a question of governance and ethics.
What is also interesting about technology is the fact that it is not linked to gender. This is an opportunity for women. As many women as men have their own micro-company. There are already 2.5 million of these companies world-wide, and their social impact has been proven. 5% of micro-entrepreneurs have already left poverty behind them, and all their children have a chance to go to school.
Today, things can change quickly, thanks to technology and the strength of the network that it enables us to create; anyone, anywhere, can put a project on line. Conversely, we can contribute to that project financially, in the form of a loan that is repaid in 98% of cases.
In his closing remarks, Mr Attali suggested offering a “loan” to our friends and family, for Christmas or on birthdays. It can help children to see an aspect of the world in a constructive way, by investing in a project with them. It will always be an excellent way to train and to educate!
Therefore, when the forum ends the conference by asking “what new leaders and leadership for new growth models?”, I say to myself that we do not currently lack ideas. However, what we, and our leaders, must do is take action, simply through having the courage of our convictions.
Mirroring the first plenary session, Raghida Dergham chaired the last debate with equal success. The guest speakers were: Clara Gaymard, Chairman and CEO of GE France, Lindiwe Mazibuko, a South African MP and a 2012 Rising Talent at the Women’s Forum (she is only 32), Christine Ockrent, the journalist, and Melanne Verveer, the US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.
The discussion was very dense, and I would like to take away a few “insights”.
- First of all, a female leader must have many qualities, like humility, an ability to listen, courage and ambition. Without being a super-woman…Oh really?
- Next, when a woman reaches power, she must always prove what she is capable of. A kind of humility, says Clara Gaymard, who has a highly responsible position herself, but seems to have remained humble.
- We should not be afraid of using positive discrimination, adds Christine Ockrent, if there is no other way.
- Lastly, to get our messages across, you need two, three or four very diverse women, from all backgrounds, to defend the same idea.
When I left the Deauville International Centre, the sky was clear, and we were surprised by wonderful sunshine. Along with my companions, Céline, Alexandra and Raphaëlle, we were delighted, even though exhausted…As we headed towards Paris, we continued our discussions, which was wonderful, as always. I realise that education is undoubtedly one of the key solutions, but that it won’t get us anywhere, without the sacrosanct confidence that we need to build up and boost throughout our careers. We still have a long way to go, but the road is clear.